He is the founder of emerging startups like WinZo Games, Zostel and ZoRooms and co-founder of Zostel Hospitality Private Limited (ZHPL), the fastest growing firm in Indian budget accommodation. He is a graduate from IIM, Calcutta, who’s an avid traveler and one of the pioneer in the travel industry. Yes, We’re talking about Paavan Nanda.
We had a conversation with him in which he shed light on his previous and present ventures as an entrepreneur as well as WinZos future plans.
Q) What is the background story behind ZO Rooms?
Paavan Nanda: In IIM Calcutta, I along with a bunch of friends started off Zostel, a chain of backpacker hostels and we soon added ZO Rooms, a branded budget hotel aggregator. We raised capital from Tiger Global and Orios, and scaled our business across 52 cities, 700+ properties and built 500 member organization. In late 2015, we sold off our ZO Rooms business to OYO Rooms. Zostel had been steadily scaling and currently, it is the largest player in Asia in the hostel category.
Q) What goals did you have when you founded this company?
Paavan Nanda: Our key motive was to develop a Tier2/T3 audience focused product and to introduce them to the digital grid where they make their first entertainment transaction.
We wanted to build a stable monetization model for the casual gaming genre, given global in-app purchase is about 2% and that for India is less than 1%, with that, add revenue is very low for this audience.
e-Sports and real money aspect to it is the best way to monetize the next 300 Million casual gamers.
We look forward to coming out as the largest brand for gaming and entertainment for the vernacular Bharat.
Q) What challenges did you and your company face in the beginning?
Paavan Nanda: Building credibility and trust in this TG with such a new product came out as a challenge for us. Likewise, distribution and creating awareness among this audience was a little challenging for us in the beginning.
Q) What can you tell us about WinZO in general?
Paavan Nanda: We are a vernacular focused e-Sports platform which rewards its users/players as per their skills/participation on the platform. We look forward to be the ‘Netflix of Gaming’- with all your favourite games
available on a single platform, with proper monetization and of course you never miss out on entertainment on WinZO. We currently host 25+ games on our platform and it’s a long way to go, covering the casual gaming space.
Q) What inspired you to launch a gaming startup?
Paavan Nanda: I have been an avid poker player myself and also enjoyed playing fantasy cricket. Post my previous venture, I wanted to enter an opportunity that marries my passion with a scalable opportunity. The way Indian Ecosystem has broken its decade-long dormancy came across as a great opportunity for us to build a very large business in this space.
Q) Do you think funding is the only option for Indian startups to succeed?
Paavan Nanda: I really don’t think so. If you can become profitable enough in the initial stage itself. It’s always a tricky choice between growth vs unit economics. Having said that, once your product market fit testifies the unit economics it is always better to grow fast and reach a massive scale, and then go after profitability.
Q) How does your Digital Marketing Strategy look like?
Paavan Nanda: Our Marketing strategies are very new age and very aggressive. We always try to solve things in an unorthodox way. We try everything under the sun and double-down those options that give us great ROIs.
Q) What advice would like to give to the new entrepreneurs?
Paavan Nanda: Take some measured risk and hustle hard. Spend your time and your skills in building something meaningful. There’s always more learning when you are part of small machinery with limited resources than when you are a part of big machinery with abundant resources. After all, when the last 1% is significant for you, you would try every trick in the trade to move it and that’s where the real game is.
Q) What are the three mistakes you wish you should have avoided?
Paavan Nanda: We have already learned a lot from our past experiences and hopefully avoided most landmines in this venture. We have tried building the company on a rock solid foundation- right from the team to the capital table.
Q) How do you make your day more productive?
Paavan Nanda: Structure. Structure and more structure. Being from a consulting background, I am usually fairly structured in the way plan my day, to how we go after a problem, breaking it down to further sub-problems. With so much action happening around, time is the most precious commodity and so is the speed of execution. Having a top-down structured approach with enough empowerment at each level helps us churn a lot of work within a very lean team.
Q) Where do you see WinZO in the next five years?
Paavan Nanda: Why 5? Within the next 3 years, WinZO will be the best entertainment App in the world, where users can compete across multiple gaming activities, make friends, build a strong global community and do almost everything that people spend their smartphone leisure time on.